The entrepreneurial buzz has died down some in the latter part of 2017 and certainly here in the early part of 2018. Why? Well, I have a few theories:
- People are beginning to realize that entrepreneurs are not demigods and shouldn’t be worshipped like they have golden dicks.
- People are getting tired of everyone pretending they’re entrepreneurs, calling themselves entrepreneurs and changing their social bio’s to entrepreneur when they, in reality, are nothing of the sort.
- People are discovering that you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to make some serious money.
While I could write an entire post on theory #1 or #2, I instead will be concentrating my attention on theory #3 –– the concept that you don’t have to be an entrepreneur (nor work a 9–5 job) to make some cheddar.
Where entrepreneurs are getting it wrong.
When I was in college a couple years back, I was obsessed with entrepreneurship. I was constantly reading about entrepreneurs, listening to podcasts about entrepreneurs and writing down big entrepreneurial ideas.
I thought I was a business protege destined to build the next great American empire. But, as I read books and listened to podcasts and thought up ideas, there was only one major problem… I wasn’t making any money.
While I had certainly given a few ventures the good ole college try during my undergrad, they never actually made me any money. All of them just fizzled out.
This was certainly due, in part, to my level of stickability –– I had a bad habit of jumping from one idea to the next without ever sticking around long enough to determine if a particular idea could transform into an elevator or a jet plane or perhaps even a spaceship.
But, this fizzling out had to also do with a big problem in entrepreneurship that not many people at the time were talking about… and still aren’t.
This belief that in order to be a successful entrepreneur or have a chance at being a successful entrepreneur, you have to live in complete poverty for 2–3 years. The starving artist mentality had seeped its way into entrepreneurship and the starving entrepreneur(s) started telling themselves and others these bullshit stories like…
“I lived in my aunt’s basement for 2 years, surviving off nothing but saltine crackers and pepperonis, working relentlessly on my widget. Some nights I would even cry myself to sleep and drink my own piss. But today, I own Sylvester’s Gyro-Skis –– innovative technology that pairs snow skis with drone helicopters. I am worth millions.”
Obviously this story is overdramatized, but you get the idea. What the entrepreneurs were (and still are) selling is this:
You have to suffer like hell for years to have a small sliver of a chance to one day make millions.
This mentality is unproductive for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is not ingrained in our DNA to do work without incentive.
For example, let’s say you are 50 pounds over weight and a fitness trainer tells you that if you bust your ass, eat healthy and run 25 miles a week… in 2–3 years you will have a small 5% chance of losing the 50 pounds, but a 95% chance you won’t lost anything
Folks, everybody would be fat. When you read this, you realize how ridiculously flawed this thinking is. It no longer becomes an issue of risk-taking or even lack of stickability. It becomes an issue of how we are wired as humans.
But, what if there was another option?
Become a freelancer then (maybe) an entrepreneur.
By this time, you wouldn’t be wrong for assuming that I am anti-entrepreneurship. But, let me assure you that I am not.
I love entrepreneurship and to be quite frank, I hold entrepreneurs in the same light that the vast majority of people hold movie stars and singers and professional athletes.
Entrepreneurs (and writers) are the creme de la creme in my eyes.
But, I also am not immune to finding holes in the entrepreneur and wantrepreneur culture that so many are following in droves these days.
This hole? What if instead of risking it all for a small chance to make a lot of money in three to five years, you could be making money right from the go?
I asked myself this question a couple years back and decided that instead of having a <1% chance at building the next big startup, I wanted a 100% chance at making money while working for myself.
It was this idea that led me to freelancing, a very different concept than entrepreneurship.
A freelancer works by the hour, day or project and gets paid for the skill or service that they offer. Where as an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
While the freelancer is never going to have a write-up in Forbes magazine or have a massive building or stadium built in his or her name… a freelancer has the opportunity to do something extraordinary.
Freelancer have the opportunity to get paid handsomely to do what they love.
Plus, (side note) the term freelance is a pretty extraordinarily awesome term in and of itself, historically used to refer to a knight-for-higher a free-lance.
On becoming a freelancer.
I am not going to dive too deeply into the actual process of becoming a freelancer (I will be saving this insight for another article). But, I can certainly skim and scuff and slide across the surface in hopes to help get you moving (or at least thinking) in this direction.
Here are a few steps to consider if you decide to make this plunge:
- What are three things you both enjoy doing and are good at? Anything is fair game here… this guy walks dogs and makes $115,000 a year doing it.
- Out of these three things, which one are people most likely to pay you to do for them? Successful freelancers will tell you to approach testing this in a few different ways. But, I think the best way is to simply go out and make a $1 selling the particular thing you are good at. If people are willing to pay a $1 for it, start charging $10, then $25, then $50 and so on.
- What is your monthly income goal? Let’s say you want to make $5,000 a month as a freelancer. To hit this number, you have to write it down and look at every day. But, besides simply embedding this number in your subconscious by thinking about it regularly, you need to come up with a plan. At first, $5,000 seems like a tough number to hit. But, at $50/hour, $5,000 is just 100 hours a month or 3ish hours a day of work. So, the question becomes… who will pay you $150 for the service you are providing? If you charge $1,000 project (say for a small website build out), $5,000 a month is just 5 projects a month. So, the question now becomes… who will pay you build five small sites a month?
Why freelancing to entrepreneurship is a natural transition.
Once you have established a successful freelancing business, you will begin to notice specific problems within the industries that you are working.
I think the transition from freelancer to entrepreneur is much easier than college graduate to entrepreneur for one key reason: you learn how to make money in exchange for value.
While it may sound rudimentary, it’s not. In college, they teach marketing and finance and accounting and [fill in the blank]… but they don’t teach the art of money making. It is a huge disservice and it is a concept that you must learn outside the institutional educational system.
We must remember that higher education wasn’t designed to instill entrepreneurial thinking in it’s customers (students). No, it was designed to manufacture a bunch of cookie cutter renderings of the ideal employee.
Just recently, we are seeing colleges make the transition to entrepreneurial education, mainly in response to them realizing that kids are done paying $60,000 to learn about “marketing” or “finance” or “accounting” in hopes to land a job a good paying job somewhere.
When colleges start teaching students how to create on their own (outside of a 9–5) is when I believe they will be moving in the right direction.
Fortunately, you can learn that skill on your own.
By Cole Schafer.